Skip to main content

We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!

Full text of "Simmel's Philosophy of Money"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 


" The difference between persons is not in wisdom, but in art." — Emerson. 

Immeasurable are the eternal hunting-grounds of knowledge, 
and innumerable the hunters who go out hunting for knowledge 
and truth ; but very narrow is the hunting-ground of the isolated 
individual in this our epoch of microscopic investigation. Only 
rarely, very rarely, such a truth-seeker exceeds the narrow dis- 
trict which belongs to him, and to him alone, in order to see 
more than this small world of his. It is the fate of the philoso- 
phy of our time to become thus narrowed. The high-flying 
thoughts which embraced the universe have been displaced by 
the "only saving" experiment by which we have learned a great 
deal, it is true, but behind which the great question mark still 
remains and which, though it provides us with the elements, 
never unveils the last cause. 

If in this our time we come upon a book that shows nothing 
of the spirit of caste in philosophy, but tries to be nothing else 
than a philosophical image of the world as it is seen by an indi- 
vidual eye, this fact alone is sufficient to attract our attention. 
We are not rich in philosophical minds ; only a small number of 
those who teach philosophy at the universities can lay claim to 
this title of honor. Men like Mack or Dilthcy, Wundt or 
Spencer, belong to their number; of the younger philosophers, 
certainly Georg Simmel. His work, of which we are going to 
speak here, the Philosophy of Money? is so absolutely an image of 
his personality that we cannot forbear to consider the tempera- 
ment through which he saw a fragment, or more than a fragment, 
of life. 

Nervous to the fingertips, of the almost frightening sensibility 
of the neurasthenic, Simmel is one of the most ingenious inter- 
preters of psychic emotions, incomparable in the gift to feel the 
most subtle vibrations of the soul. 

What we admire most in him is the contradiction or rather 

1 Leipzig : Duncker & Humblot. 



coincidence, in his character, of the highest faculty of ana- 
lytical thought with the gift of artistic representation ; the 
perfect harmony between analysis and synthesis, between scien- 
tific abstraction and emotional contemplation. In his Introduc- 
tion to Moral Science? which investigates the; principles of ethics, 
as well as in his Social Differentiation, 2 Simmel has already touched 
problems which, lying at a great distance from the broad way of 
university science, are darkly looming from out the multitude of 
social psychological questions ; and here already he has brought 
light into many a dark corner of the science of sociology. The 
Philosophy of Money, which in many ways excels his former works, 
is the keystone of his*social psychological investigations and a 
document of the relative interpretation of life which may be 
called Simmel 's particular Weltanschauung. 

In this book the attempt has been made to single out one 
particular question from the multitude of problems and to show 
the totality of its meaning in the singular phenomenon by fol- 
lowing the chain of ideas which, beyond any merely historical 
evolution of its substance, leads far beyond the merely accidental 
historical realization. Analysis and synthesis are necessary com- 
plements to each other, and Simmel does justice to the totality 
which lies in their union in treating the problem analytically and 
synthetically, and in exceeding mere representation. 

In artistic symmetry the analytical and the synthetical part 
are standing side by side. The former is divided into the fol- 
lowing chapters : "Value and Money;" "The Substance- Value 
of Money;" "Money in the Succession of Purposes (Zweck- 
rei/ien);" the latter, into the chapters "Individual Liberty," 
"The Money Equivalent of Personal Values," and "The Style of 

It is impossible to treat critically the contents of the whole 
work of nearly 600 pages, though it is difficult to pass by so 
much beauty and so many new thoughts. We can only get a 
glimpse of a few points. In contrast to other authors, I should 
like to lay stress on the first analytical part, as I consider it 
to be fundamental. It develops money from life, the synthetical 

"Berlin, 1892, 1893; two volumes. 'Leipzig, 1890. 


part of life from money. If in the introduction to the work 
Simmel says that not a single line of the whole book should be 
interpreted economically, this can only mean that it should not 
be interpreted merely economically. And the real meaning of it 
is the same as is incorporated in the fact that the system exceeds 
the singular phenomenon and belongs rather to the kingdom of 
ideas than to everyday realities. 

From a higher standpoint the author looks down upon the 
market-place of life, the comings and goings of which seem so 
intricate, where people seem to be jumbled up, and where you 
look in vain for the Archimedean point from which the earth 
cannot be moved out of its poles, it is true — that peaceful science 
will not do — but from which it can be overlooked at a glance. 
The world as the great market-place, taken from a bird's-eye 
view, from which everything is seen in relation to everything 
else — that is the view that Simmel shows us in his Philosophy 
of Money. Only an economic phenomenon like money, and this 
before all others, could in its totality give an image of the world 
in which everything is part of the whole. In his book Simmel 
gives the philosophic limits of any science, its premises on the 
one and its last consequences on the other side. The pre- and 
post-economic side of money is treated; the author speaks of 
money, but through it he lets us see mankind and life. 

In his first chapter, "Value and Money," Simmel opposes 
being to value, reality of being to valuing as categories. This 
is a hypothesis which differentiates reality as it indifferently fol- 
lows natural laws from any individually formed range of values. 
In the world of realities — the subjectivity of which in a philo- 
sophic sense need not be entered upon here — our ego is nothing 
but an atom ; in the world of values we are masters and creators. 
Nature does not care for what we care for ; she destroys what 
seemed to be made for eternity and conserves what seems 
doomed to destruction. No determination regulates the relation 
between reality and value ; similar to parallels they run side by 
side, and the synthesis that embraces both lies only where both 
lines meet — in infinity. 

Whether this principal difference is as great as Simmel sees 


it may be doubted from the point of view that reality also as 
such can be perceived in certain psychological orders, which are 
regulated by the same laws as valuing. It may be shortly shown 
what Simmel means by subjectivity of value. The phenomenon 
that one and the same object is valued differently by different 
persons, and, on the other hand, that difference of objects need 
not mean difference of value, makes the valuing subject a 
responsible instance, whose different relations must be regarded 
as causes. The subjectivity and objectivity of value — the bone 
of contention in economic science from the beginning of scien- 
tific investigation up to the psychologically exact deductions of 
the Austrian theorists of marginal utility — are here investigated 
from quite new points of view. We meet with the riddle of 
value on a philosophic foundation, as we want it so badly for 
the purposes of economic theory. But has the riddle been 
solved? I hardly believe it. New sparkling surfaces have been 
cut on the crystal, but it has not yet become transparent. We 
have become a good deal richer in knowledge of psychological 
truths, but. even they leave many contradictions in life still 
unsolved. The investigations into the subjectivity of value show 
us that value can never be attributed to an object from arbitrary 
reasons ; its foundation is rather the negative one : that value or 
valuing cannot cling to things like color or scent ; the subjec- 
tivity of value is only our copying of an objective determination. 
Thus value must belong to a category in which objectivity also 
lays claim to being acknowledged. Subjectivity and objec- 
tivity may be only stages, may exist one by the side of the 
other, the locus of value. And that is of highest importance, as 
subjectivity and objectivity have no right to take up the whole 
sum of existence — must belong to a category which makes allow- 
ance as well for our feelings as for the structure of reality, and 
which may be named the supersubjective one. Psychologically 
objective value is really very closely connected with subjective 
value. As objective value in the abstract it may be considered 
as the norm of subjective value, built up on the human faculty to 
quasi-objectify emotional quantities. What Simmel develops is 
an eclectic combination of the theories of value of the Austrian 


school of Marx, Carey, and Duhring, who all of them have done 
justice to only one side of valuing, and some of whom overrate 
the side of supply and some the side of demand. Simmel's 
theory of value is a theory of sacrifice. But he does not char- 
acterize the sacrifice or the cost as value, but as the elements 
which form value. As long as an object comes to us without 
painstaking it is worthless, like water at the source and the air 
we breathe. Only the distance that stands between our desires 
and their fulfilment makes us project the intensity of our need 
on to the object ; only the dissolution from its merely being 
enjoyed makes the object an object of value. When a Volks- 
wirtschaft develops, it seems as if the objects determined their 
own value, by being exchanged, while in reality the subjective 
satisfaction of needs is the basis for this valuation. The distance 
between subjects and objects, produced by difficulties of acquisi- 
tion, i. e., rarity, by the necessary division in different possibilities 
of employment, by all sorts of obstacles, only this gives value to 
things. But Simmel does not make the mistake of earlier 
economists, as he does not pretend the force of resistance to be 
proportional to value. Has the distance between subjects and 
objects once become a fact, it takes the technical form of an 
exchange, this being the only possibility that objects determine 
each other's values. The tendency toward an objectivation of 
values, toward a mere mechanization of economics, never comes 
to an end. As exchange is of importance to the whole of society, 
by being exchanged an object becomes an object of value. The 
sacrifice, the being obliged to give one thing for another, creates 
values. Exchange is only one out of the multitude of relations 
of which life consists and which manifest themselves in every 
love, in every friendship. 

The objection that the isolated householder, who neither 
buys nor sells, and economic periods before the development of 
exchange, cannot know valuation if it is exchange which forms 
value, is subtly confuted by Simmel. According to him the 
essential characteristic of exchange consists only in the fact that 
a subject now possesses something which formerly it did not 
possess, and does not possess something which formerly it did 


possess. The interindividual exchange is only a doubling of this 
relation. The main point, however, is the process going on in 
the individual man. The isolated householder also makes valu- 
ations when he confides the seed to the soil, and it does not 
matter that not a subject, but the natural order of things — which 
demands a sacrifice in order that our needs may be satisfied — 
is his partner. This is really nothing else than an exchange, for 
temporary coincidence of action and reaction is not essential to 
it. We are of the same opinion as Simmel, that exchange or 
trade is just as productive as the production properly so called, 
as we cannot create either substances or energies, but can only 
combine and shift given ones in such a way that as many as 
possible of "realities" become "values." 1 

From the point of view of political economy we have here 
nothing else than a highly developed theory of sacrifice. Only 
the ideas that Simmel attaches to the problem of value give a 
new significance to the theory. One formula only has been 
taken up, but out of it we can develop the formulae for the world. 
"To be after" means "to be in relation." Exchange is one 
of the highest forms of being, the special image of relativity, 
which to Simmel becomes the symbol of the world. The fact 
that things are determined one by the other is the basis of 
human realities. Economics is because there are values, but 
values are only because economics is. When we have grasped 
this interpretation, we understand the sentence which in its 
form is analogous to Kant: "The possibility of economics is 
at the same time the possibility of the objects of economics." 
In this theory " rarity " and "usefulness" can be included, but 
they alone cannot create values ; only the relation to a purpose, 
which exchange, as the overcoming of any felt dependence, 
creates — only the addition of the human will, not this depend- 
ence alone — is able to create values. As soon as we become 
aware of the fact that each value is not value in the abstract, but 
special value, we understand the coincidence of price and value. 
Yea, value is only the epigone of price, while it seems to us as if 
we pay a price for that which is valuable. The reason of this is 

z Vide J. B. Say, Traiti d'iconomie politique, Vol. I, chap. 4. 


the fact that only our power to change the actual situation by 
sacrificing labor or goods — i. e., exchange — creates values. 

The third part of this chapter discusses in general how things 
are determined by each other. It investigates the problem of 
truth, knowledge as a whole in the flow of relativity, the whole 
being less true than its parts. Every perception, every institu- 
tion, only finds its sense in other things ; that is so with regard 
to law, the basis of which is not absolute justice, and with regard 
to art, the truth of which is the most perspicuous image of rela- 
tivity. We understand our ego through other people and other 
people through our ego. The highest condensation of this rela- 
tivity is money, " for in it the value of things, looked upon as 
their economic reaction on one another, has found its clearest 
expression." Money is the objectivation of the relation which 
as exchangeability plays a part in economics, but beyond that it 
is the expression for the formula that things are determined by 
each other, that only the mutuality of relations determines their 
being, and their being as they are. Thus money becomes sepa- 
rated from all other goods, and on it as onto sacred objects 
we project the relations as the symbol of which they afterward 
appear. Money as the symbol of relativity — or, better, exchange- 
ability — begins to be more and more nothing but a symbol. 

The second chapter, "The Substance-Value of Money," 1 treats 
of a problem of special interest to every economist — the question 
whether it is necessary that the substance of money should be 
valuable in order to make money fit for the fulfilment of its 
function. Much thought has been given to this problem. From 
Aristotle upward, all through the Middle Ages, by French, 
English, and Italian philosophers of the eighteenth century ; by 
the classical school of political economy, by bimetallists and 
anti-bimetallists — by all of these has the problem been touched, 2 
by none of them has it been solved. As far as I can look over 
the literature, there exists no investigation which looks upon the 
question from a purely logical point of view and totally inde- 

*Cf. Tonnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig, 1887. 

"Vide, among others, Aristot., Pol. (I, 3, 16 Schr.) ; Melancthon, Coop. Re/., 
XVI, 498 ; Montanari, Delia Moneta, 35 ; B. Franklin, Remarks on the American 
Paper Money, 1765; Ricardo, Proposal for an Economical and Secure Currency; 
KOSCHER, Grundlagen der Nationalbkonomie, § 116 ; Knies, Das Geld, 1885. 


pendent from the historical realization of economics. Simmel 
is the first who undertakes to interpret the idea of valuation 
purely deductively. Certainly there exists an idea of money, as 
there exist natural laws, and the money that serves for economic 
transactions is only a manifestation of its meaning, as the single 
experiment is the manifestation of the natural law. But as the 
law of gravity does not become evident in reality, but only 
manifests itself in vacuo thus, we may not consider our money, 
as far as it serves economic purposes, as the manifestation of its 
pure meaning; but what we call money is, as it seems to me, 
only a substitute for money, the historical tendency of which is 
to accept more and more of that which constitutes the meaning 
of money and to remove what is opposed to it. 

The question whether it is necessary for money to be valu- 
able in substance in order to measure values — that is to say, 
whether there must exist an equality of quality between the 
measuring and the measured object x — is not as easily answered in 
the affirmative as it seems at first sight. Only to the superficial 
observer it seems as if money should necessarily be valuable, 
as it is necessary for the instrument for measuring lengths to be 
long and for the weight to be heavy. Price as the expression for 
money, and goods, does not stand in this simple relation to each 
other; among others it is Philippovich who made this quite 
clear. The idea into which Simmel enters at length, without, 
however, being able to come to the last solution, is the attempt 
to do away with the simple comparison between goods and their 
prices which by nature have no qualitative relation to each other 
and to put in its stead the relation of two proportions in which 
the dependence of the formation of prices from the whole of eco- 
nomics is expressed. Doubtless the total quantity of money = 
M, and the total quantity of goods = G, stand in a certain rela- 
tion to each other — a fact which is clearly shown by the influ- 
ence an increase of the sum of goods has upon prices. 2 Just so, 

1 Vide Law, Money and Trade, considered with a proposal for supplying the 
nation with money; Roscher, Grundlagen der Nationalbkonomie, 1900, p. 340; 
Mommsen, Geschichte des rbmischen Munzwesens (i860), p. yi. 

» Traces of this are already to be found in Locke, Hume, Montesquieu, and all 
theorists of quantity. 


every single quantity of goods must at a given moment be in 
some way related to the total quantity of goods. The just price 
for any good, which by itself could never be recognized, would 
be that given by this relation. If we take m to be the single 
sum of money and g the single good, we can form the equation 

g m 

Thus we get an objective proportion which takes the place of the 
absent qualitative relation. By the introduction of the mathemat- 
ical functional symbol which serves to represent the actual forma- 
tion of price the equation becomes applicable to every case and 

or fpi 

remains mathematically just ; i.e.,-z=r=—jg.. The difficulty that 

none of us, not even the most theoretical of economists, in 
paying a certain price ever thinks of the total quantity of 
money or goods is very cleverly overcome by Simmel. The 
two denominators vanish from our consciousness, the narrowness 
of which leaves room but for the concrete individual case ; thus 
only the numerators of the fraction — good and price — appear to 
us to be effective, while the total quantities of both remain outside 
our consciousness. The reason why this measuring function of 
money is so difficult to recognize and is denied by so many lies 
in the fact that historical realization has left a double character 
in money, that, besides its value as gold or silver it has its value 
as a function. While former theorists recognized only a tend- 
ency toward a development of the functional character and a 
recession of the substance character, Simmel considers the func- 
tion, not the substance, to be essential to money, and goes so far 
as to call its substantial character a detriment to pure money. 
The evolution of money must have the tendency to give up sub- 
stance more and more, 1 but from technical reasons this can per- 
haps never be anything more than a regulative principle, the end 
of which may never be reached. 

Money as well as every other economic phenomenon is 
regulated by the economic principle, the principle of economy 
and construction of energy and substance. More and more 

1 Vide Von Scheet, " Der Begriff des Geldes in seiner historisch-okonomischen 
Entwicklung," in Hildebrand's Jahrbiicher (1866), Vol. I, p. 16. 


money becomes a symbol and loses the character of a mere 
substance ; this is illustrated by an abundance of deep psycho- 
logical examples and analogies, till at last we come to the con- 
clusion that at the beginning money is made fit for its function 
because it has value, but that in the end it has a value only 
because of its function. 

The third chapter treats of " Money in the Succession of 
Purposes," it proclaims money to incorporate the purest idea of 
a mean entering into all purposes merely as an instrument. 
Totally indifferent, money stands above all objects, and because 
it has no purpose it is everywhere means. The character of 
money is its want of character, which lets it play its part in 
relation to everything merely in order to fulfil its purposes. 
Especially dear and perspicuous seems to me the representation 
of the dependence and connection between value and purpose. 
We see that from a psychological point of view we can even 
identify the two. Purpose — as valuable ' in itself — projects its 
value on the mean that leads to it, just as we confer the impor- 
tance of the satisfaction of a need from the subject to the satisfy- 
ing object. In an absolute sense a value or a purpose is always 
in existence when a process of will stops. Value and purpose 
are only two sides of a phenomenon, the idea of an object which 
in its theoretical emotional significance is a value in its practical 
volitive significance becomes a purpose. It is impossible to 
overrate the importance of this teleological view. For it has 
been truly said that thinking, feeling, and will cannot be separated, 
but are three inseparable elements in the stream of conscious life. 
What I have just felt or imagined as a value becomes afterward 
as a purpose the motive of my action. 

But money also ceases to be merely a means and degenerates 
into a purpose. This dislocation of means and end is illustrated 
by the problems of avarice, of ascetic poverty, and of cynicism. 

In the following part Simmel shows how a quantity of money 
can become of qualitative significance. Here he investigates the 
problem of the household of economic consciousness, a thresh- 
old of quantity the height of which designates our scale in the 
estimation of economic, or better money, questions. It is a very 


good idea of Simmel's to assume such thresholds, not for con- 
sciousness only, as is generally done, but for the different 
provinces of emotion and intellect, to speak of an aesthetic, of 
an economic, of a philosophic threshold. In this case, however, 
he enters only into the economic side. It is essential to money 
that by raising its quantity its quality also is changed. A large 
sum in one hand has a different effect from what it would have 
in many hands. Thus money becomes the symbol of a general 
tendency in life — namely, the reduction of quality to quantity. 
If money has thus grown from out of the structure of the 
human soul and of human society, it has, on the other hand, 
reacted upon both. 

It was the object of the analytic part of the work to dissect; 
it is the the object of the synthetic part to build up. This leads 
up to the chapter on "Individual Liberty." There can be no 
higher task than to recognize the blessings that civilization has 
brought to mankind; no more tempting one than to investigate 
the effect that one of its most important instruments — money — 
has had upon individual liberty. We can follow the process all 
through history, how money releases the person because the 
obligation is related to the product of work, not to the human 
being. Money is able to form the most impersonal relations 
between men. The objective bond grows, but personal liberty 
remains. Object and subject are separated from each other. 
The bonds that money creates between men are infinitely 
numerous; nearly all relations between men have some connec- 
tion with money, may it be ever so insignificant, as for instance, 
the rent a society has to pay for a room. But only the objective 
purport connects men; personally they remain free, even if the 
number of people upon whom they are dependent grows more 
and more. Just because there is the possibility of the most 
impersonal relations, there is room for individual liberty. 

Money transforms property. While the possession of goods 
affects the individual because the peculiarities of different objects 
require different ambitions, the infinite number of possibilities that 
money combines leaves us free. Money is, so to speak, condensed 
property, the possesion of which contains the possession of every- 


thing we can buy for money. 1 The significance of the posses- 
sion of money does not lie in the object, but in its relation to the 
subject, the possessor, who can use it according to his wishes. 
The greater and higher the part that money plays in economics, 
the looser become the bands between people, because money is 
the absolute means. It is impossible to repeat here all the subtle 
remarks Simmel makes on the different kinds of property, 
on the character of exchange as the center of all monetary 
transactions; this must be read and enjoyed in its proper place. 
Also with regard to space, money loosens the bond between us 
and property. Only by money the shareholder, the public credit- 
or, the landed proprietor who has let his farm, are enabled to 
live at a distance from their property, as this can be secured by 

One remainder of the period of closer personal bonds is still 
to be found in our modern times — the relation of the servant to 
the master. Servants enter into this relation as whole persons, 
as they have not been hired for a special purpose. The labor 
movement would never have been able to become so powerful, if 
the contract between employers and employed did not bind the 
laborer to a special purpose only, and with his personal liberty 
did not leave him a good deal of self-esteem. The relation 
between servant and master, which is determined by the fact that 
the greater part of the wages is still paid in kind, has not yet 
reached the technical character which it is the tendency of all 
other relations between men to strive after. 

Simmers remarks on socialism will hardly be applauded by 
its followers. Schmoller justly supposes they will think him too 
much of an aristocrat. Simmel has learned a great deal from 
Marx, but neither in his theory of value, nor in psychological 
and ethical questions has he stopped there. For that reason the 
attacks one of the most talented of our younger socialists made 
against his book, which does not at all intend to give anything 
but a theory of value, seem to me one-sided and unjust. But 
this only by the way. There are very many subtle and clever 

1 This is already expressed by the ancient sentence: "Pecuniam habens, habet 
omnem rem quam habere vult." 


thoughts just in this part of the book, as for instance, the idea 
of the connection between the growing importance of money and 
individualism. Money widens the circles, because the individual 
enters into every relation with part of its ego only ; it leaves room 
for a greater individualization. Closer bonds presume equality; 
they check the process of individualization. Very obvious seems 
to me the truth of the argument that if we look upon socialism 
as a rationalization of society, the peasant must be farther 
removed from it than the industrial laborer, because his labor is 
less regulated than any work dependent upon machines. 

In the following chapter, " The Money Equivalent of Personal 
Values," we are led into the region of historical facts in their 
psychological relation to money. Money and man, the highest 
created being and the most impersonal of objects, are put into a 
relation, a comparison; the value of the man becomes measur- 
able by money. The fact, so repellent to any more delicate feel- 
ing, that the totality of man is prized by money, is illustrated by 
three of its most interesting forms — by blood-money, slavery, 
and marriage by purchase. Many a light is thrown on the vary- 
ing conceptions of man and of the human soul it was left to 
Christianity to represent as something absolutely valuable. The 
double sense and origin of punishment — from society's need of 
protection and as a compensation for damages done — is clearly 
shown. Also our modern system of law is drawn into the range 
of the investigation, a system in which all crimes reducible to 
money-interests have to suffer much higher penalties than 
others the impunity of which is directly opposed to our ideas 
of justice. 

The tendency of money to strive after ever-growing indiffer- 
ence and mere quantitative significance coincides with the ever- 
growing differentiation of men which individualizes them more 
and more ; and thus money becomes less and less inadequate to 
personal values in man. An important part money plays in the 
purchase of women, which cannot be said to have anything dis- 
honoring in a lower state of society, but rather denotes a rising 
from sexual relations akin to promiscuity — the pure existence 
of which may, moreover, be doubted. Here it is possible to 


draw a conclusion from the value of money to the value of the 
purchase. That a woman becomes valuable because a price has 
been paid for her is only a case of the psychologically general 
projection of value we have spoken of above. Examples of this 
from ethnology are easily to be found; a good analogy from 
daily life is the fact that children who have given most trouble 
to their parents are generally most loved. The changes in the 
organization of economics, the formation of the family, alters the 
position of women ; the economic value of women loses its origi- 
nal character ; in the eyes of superficial observers she becomes a 
burden, as she does not earn anything. This is the motive for 
the dowry, the spreading of which is possible only in a time which 
considers money to be the natural means of exchange, as only 
money can give woman the desired economic security. The 
price which was formerly paid for the productive power of 
woman is now replaced by the dowry in money given as a 
compensation for the non-working woman and at the same time 
as a security for herself. 

A most delicate and subtle treatment has been devoted to 
the part that money plays in prostitution. Money alone — which 
in itself is akin to prostitution — can enter into the only momen- 
tary relation of two people which leaves no trace behind. " By 
giving money we have withdrawn ourselves more completely 
from the relation, have done with it more radically than by 
giving any other object to which, by its quality, its choice, or its 
use, can easily cling a greater part of the giving personality." 
"For a relation between men which is based on permanency and 
inner truth — as the real alliance of love, however short a time 
it may eventually last — money can never be an adequate 
medium, whereas money is objectively as well as symbolically 
the most perfect equivalent to any purchasable enjoyment." 
Prostitution as the typical case in which men consider each 
other merely as a means must have some relation to money, as 
the absolute means. " Prostitution becomes dishonoring because 
the gift of a woman's whole being, which ought only to be paid by 
the absolute devotion of a man, is felt to be sufficiently rewarded 
by money, this most neutral and impersonal of objects." Again 


we meet with the change from quantity to quality if we see that 
the actress of whom everybody knows that she is the mistress of 
a millionaire is received in society, whereas the common prosti- 
tute who is perhaps a much nobler character, is banished to the 
street. Akin to prostitution is the marriage of interest, in which 
the purchased wife is always more to be pitied than the pur- 
chased husband, because she enters into matrimony with a 
greater part of herself. Theoretically, Simmel is perfectly right 
if he considers the marriage advertisement as a means to ration- 
alize life and so facilitate the meeting of differentiated people, 
which is otherwise left to chance. Practically he has to admit 
that only the pecuniary circumstances can be half-way clearly 
described, whereas outward appearance, character, etc., lie 
beyond any possibility of description. Two lamentable sides 
which the growing importance of money has possessed have 
also been masterfully represented by Simmel : corruption, which 
can be much more easily — because more secretly — accom- 
plished by money, and the decay of gentility, which is also 
deplored by Nietzsche. The exchangeability of things, the 
possibility of selling them at any moment, means a lowering of 
the standard. It serves to lay particular stress on the quantita- 
tive character — a fact repellent to all noble-thinking individuals, 
who never ask after the " how much." 

The relation of money to human values, the attempt to find 
the primitive value to which everything might be reduced even- 
tually is reorganized in labor, the most common possibility of 
reduction. The theory 1 which makes labor the creator of values 
is philosophically the most interesting of all theories of value, 
because there is not one side of human personality which could 
not be changed into labor, so that it might well be the common 
equivalent to all personal values. A difficulty is introduced by 
mental labor, which, as it does not raise the cost of the product, 
seems to leave the formation of value to muscular labor only. 
With great subtlety the arguments and counter-arguments are 

% Vide Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Vol. I, p. 5; Ricardo, Principles of 
Political Economy, Vols. I and XX; Morse, Kapital, passim; Rodbertus, Zur 
Erkenntnis unserer staatswirtschaftlichen Zustande, passim; Sociale Brief e, passim; 
Henry George, Progress and Poverty. 


weighed ; only a man of Simmel's sharp intellect was able to see 
all the objections that could be raised. The reduction of men- 
tal to physical labor is investigated. The hypothesis of inheri- 
tance, the possibility of a relation between the standard of life, 
and the quality of the productions are discussed. It seems 
justifiable that a differentiated intellect should be fed on differ- 
entiated food; in this respect it is true that "man is what he 

This reduction of all work to muscular power seems plebeian 
and crude, but even here Simmel sees a way out of the difficulty. 
Perhaps the value of muscular labor does not lie in the physical 
effort, but in the physical energy that enables us to take work 
upon us, so that all work may be reduced to a physical effort 
which a future generation may perhaps be able to measure. 
This interesting discussion is not quite final, however, for it can- 
not be denied that labor may be worthless, foolish, superfluous, 
so that an external moment — i. e., utility — is added as a deter- 
minating factor, and the quantity of labor in itself is not a suffi- 
cient basis of value. In supplement to Simmel one might call 
attention to the fact that a clock, one wheel of which is wanting, 
cannot stand in the same relation to the perfect clock as that in 
which the quantities of labor applied to both stand to each other. 
Thus we recognize that labor-money — which, strange to say, 
even non-socialists * defend — is to be rejected as lost equivalent, 
and our money, which certainly often violates personal values, 
is to be preferred, because its mere quantitative character allows 
the unity of value to be changed into multiplicity. 

In the last chapter, "The Style of Life," 2 we breathe the 
mountain air of modern philosophy. Money and culture, the 
whole rhythm of modern life, the style in which the different ten- 
dencies of our time have become united as a whole ! The pro- 
longation of the succession of human purposes causes the cessa- 
tion of emotional impulsive actions, the world gradually becomes 
a problem that intellect has to cope with. The enhancement of 

1 For instance, Schaffle. 

2 Vide Sombart, Der mcderne Kafitalismus, 1902, Vol. I, pp. 378 ff.; Vol. II, pp. 
68 ff., passim. 


intellect is the rationalization of the world. Between money and 
intellect there are closer relations than mere analogies. Intel- 
lect, being only a reflex of reality, equals money in its want of 
interest. Both are standing beyond any personal relation to 
their object. Intellectualism and the rule of money impress 
upon our time the mark of calculation and reckoning, in science 
strongly influenced by the growing importance of the exact 
sciences ; but equally in trade in the struggle for existence, in its 
dependence on the totality of economic life. 

The reverse of this — the appearance of stronger emotions, 
romantic ideals, longings after a more sentimental conception of 
things — is not to be considered an argument, but rather a reac- 
tion against this phenomenon. Money and intellect create the 
highest objectivation of the style of life ; money and intellect 
are exchangeable without residue. Intellect can be exchanged 
into thought, mediated by language and writing. Money means 
the exchange of everything as far as it belongs to economics. 
Intellect is not individual, but different only in depth ; the same 
we can say of money, the quality of which is its quantity. Here 
we have rich and nearly inexhaustible sources for the knowledge 
of the development since the beginning importance of money 
which first gave us the possibility of exactness in life. 

The second part of the chapter treats of the contrast between 
objective and subjective culture. Objective culture is a great 
deal more than what Hegel means by "objective spirit." We 
have become ever so much richer in objective goods of science, 
technical science, and art ; our language is composed of a much 
greater vocabulary, and yet it seems as if the individual had to 
give up its possessions that they might enter into objective cul- 
ture. This becomes clear by an explanation by which Simmel 
descends into the deepest depths of the soul. Plato has called 
our knowledge a recollection. Simmel approaches the meaning 
of this interpretation when he says : " We feel our thinking to 
be the fulfilment of an ideal model ;" and farther on : " Percep- 
tion is to us nothing else than the realization of those concep- 
tions within our consciousness, which seems to have waited for 
us there." We feel our knowledge to be a necessity, because 
for every intellect truth is preformed. 


Objective culture as the objectivation of intellect thus 
becomes a historical fact. Here we find what is dubious in 
biology, an inheritance of acquired qualities. The style of life 
is determined only by the relation to subjective and objective 
culture. The greater the division of labor, the more compli- 
cated becomes the relation for the subject. Goods are more and 
more separated from their producer; factory goods replace 
goods made to order. Because labor is subservient to an object- 
ive purpose, it stands in a more objective relation even to the 
worker. Thus we get the purely objective relation that every- 
body works for everybody else : the upper for the lower classes, 
and vice versa, the celebrated chemist in his laboratory for the 
peasant's wife who buys the colored neckerchief, and the work- 
ing man for everybody who is a consumer of the goods he pro- 

Fashion 1 is a symbol of the variety of our style of life, of 
the objectivity with which we all of us look upon our daily sur- 
roundings to which we are not bound by any of those personal 
feelings so deeply rooted in more conservative antiquity. Our 
surroundings are indifferent to us because they are exchangeable 
for money. Our style of life through money becomes more and 
more anti-individual. But Simmel also sees the tendencies 
going in an opposite direction by surpassing the objective 
moment, when, for instance, we replace inherited and dogmatic 
laws by more individual ones, or when the subjective faculties 
of woman call for a higher satisfaction because the objective 
character of matrimony and domestic economy has outgrown 
itself and leaves her dissatisfied. The parts that money and 
division of labor have played in economics are closely related. 
What we gain by the ascendency of objective intellect, we lose 
in soul and heart. But even here a last contrast remains ; the 
more money becomes a cause of indifferentism and the more 
everything becomes measurable by mammon, the more passion- 
ately the doors of that region are guarded which still remains the 
stronghold of our soul and where we still feel it our duty to 
oppose all mercenariness. 

1 Vide Sombart, loc. cit., Vol. II, p. 327. 


Besides the contrast between subject and object there is that 
between our ego and the external world. The last part of the 
chapter treats of the distance between us and things, men, ideas, 
and relations. Very cleverly Simmel explains how it comes to 
pass that the ideas of space deducted from the external world 
become the standard for our ego. Here he speaks of the part 
distance plays in art, of our modern tendency to prolong the 
distance between us and things. The modern mind is strangely 
fascinated by everything distant. We do not prefer what is 
clear, perspicuous, and self-evident, but what is symbolic, apho- 
ristic, sketchy. We understand what Voltaire meant by saying: 
" Pour £tre ennuyeux il faut tout dire." We have a predilection 
for distant styles of art, for enigmatic symbols. We want to 
enjoy everything from a distance. Yes, Simmel, who himself 
follows this doctrine, sees the greatest delicacy of literary style, 
not in grasping things tightly, but in only grazing them. Mod- 
ern philosophy does not want to come as close up to things as 
materialism did; things are separated by the medium of the 
soul ; the principle of utility which made cause and effect draw 
near to each other, has had to give way to a greater separation 
of the two. The interpolation of new media into the succession 
of purposes removes the nearest to a distance. Hand in hand 
with this tendency toward a widening of distance goes an oppo- 
site one. Technical science as the overcomer of space and time 
brings distant things into relation, so that the result is a widen- 
ing of the distance with regard to our inner life, a shortening of 
the distance with regard to our outward life. 

Money plays a most important part within both tendencies. 
It makes it possible at the same time to loosen the bonds of 
primitive dependence within the family and to put us into rela- 
tion with a great number of people. Credit, which, as is often 
maintained, does not stand beyond the economic stage charac- 
terized by money, but rather is essential to it, is here psycho- 
logically explained. It creates distances and overcomes them. 
Credit itself is nothing else than a phenomenon of the whole 
style of our modern life. Which of us is not struck by the truth 
of the following words: "Through modern time, and especially 


through these last years, there goes a feeling of tension, expecta- 
tion, and unsolved pressure — as if the main point, the gist, the 
real sense and center of life and things, was still to come." There 
is a general tendency for the means to overgrow the ends ; an 
interesting example of this is the army: really nothing but an 
accumulation of latent energy, a means. in case of war, which at 
the same time is to be avoided by the existence of standing 
armies, it has become a purpose in itself. The overgrowth of 
means over ends finds its culmination in the power outward life 
has over the life of our soul. It is not a scientific, but a mytho- 
logically childish thought, if we speak of an overcoming of, or a 
power over, nature ; as in nature there is no will opposed to ours. 
The machine, of which Ruskin has said that it is like a demon, 
who first makes men rich and happy, but afterwards wrenches 
their soul from them, shows us the relation of man to the 
outward world. "The sentence that we rule over nature by 
serving it has the awful reverse that we serve it by ruling 
over it." We become slaves of the process of production, of 
the products, their qualities and of everything surrounding us. 1 
The contest between ends and means always strives after an 
adjustment, but "perhaps it is not at all the meaning of life 
ever to realize the permanency of a reconciled state." This is 
the real source of the restlessness of modern men, that restless- 
ness which has driven them from socialism to Nietzsche, from 
Hegel to Schopenhauer, from Bocklin to impressionism. As the 
modus of means money must play a part in this process of life, 
and, moreover, a double one — the part as a means and the part 
as an end. 

The second determination of style is of a temporary kind ; it 
has its foundation in rhythm, 2 as a temporary phenomenon. Man 
early rose above rhythm. He is no more bound to a definite 
pairing-time, remainders of which are still to be found among 
uncultivated nations. The dependence of the satisfaction of our 
needs upon the seasons gradually lessens. Civilization strives to 
overcome everything periodically rhythmical. Opposed to this 

'Vide ONCKEN, Geschichte der Nationalokonomie, p. 44. 

'Vide Karl Bucher, Arbeit und Rhythmus, passim, chaps, i, ii, ix ff. 


development is the fact that rhythm as the symmetry of time, 
and symmetry as the rhythm of space — as first proofs of a 
rationalization of things which spreads an enlightening system 
over their casual connection — are tendencies of beginning cul- 
ture. Symmetry and rhythm are the first to create a possibility 
for surveying what was heretofore unconnected. They are the 
symptoms of a medium height of culture. But the style of life 
must also outgrow this form, for periodicity and systematics are 
a violation of real life. Their power is broken before the highest 
manifestations of science, politics, and art. The higher form 
does justice to the individuality of things, instead of forcing it 
into a system. Modern factory work again approximates to the 
symmetrical rhythmical form; but it is no longer the old rhythm 
of work as it is characteristic of primitive man and which is based 
on physiological-psychological energy, 1 but a subordination 
under the totally different objective development of machine 
products, which adapts itself to the economic principle and, as 
we have seen above, leaves room for individual liberty. The 
highest form of labor — mental work — is of a specifically indi- 
vidualistic-spontaneous character. 

Money also goes through the same stages of development. 
In the middle stage it is rhythmically bound by fairs and mar- 
kets, but this is superseded by a more continuous form. Sys- 
tematization is overcome by individuality. But because money 
is fluent and wanting in power and character, it is able to adapt 
itself even to systematics. It has been subservient to liberalism ; 
it becomes a means of despotism, and has had the faculty to 
adapt itself to socialism, and even to prepare its way. 

But there are more things in life determined by money. 
Money determines the movement of our style of life ; an increase 
or a decrease of money affects the economic-psychic pro- 
cesses; money increases emotions. It is not by accident that 
only since money became the general means of exchange, clocks 
begin to strike the quarters ; that only about this time watches 
become a necessity, for time only now becomes of importance; 
time becomes money. Money is in a constant flow ; it flows into 

1 Vide BuCHER, Arbeit und Rhythmus. 


the centers of economic life, into the exchange, where life is in 
quickest movement ; it flows into the smallest form, into the check 
which makes it possible to transport great sums quickly from 
place to place. Money is round and wants to be rolling from 
hand to hand, from place to place, as the symbol of ever-flowing, 
never-resting life. Money has to be given away in order to be 
money. Only in movement it fulfils its function, it finds its 
sense. It becomes an equivalent to all things as far as they are 
economic, soaring above them, like a Platonic idea, like natural 
laws above the phenomena of nature. It becomes the last 
symbol for the movement of the world ; though being merely 
the instrument of a movement, it becomes the shape into which 
all things have to enter, if they want to measure each other's 
economic value. While as a single phenomenon it is the most 
transient thing of the outward, practical world, by its meaning 
it becomes the most constant of all ; its ideal sense, like that of 
law, is to give everything its measure. The last thing Simmel's 
book teaches us is the constant movement of the world, the 
relational character of life. The philosophic meaning of money 
is " that within the practical world it is the most definite incorpo- 
ration, the most evident realization of the general formula that 
things are determined by each other and that the mutuality of 
their relations determines their being and their being as they 

Simmel's Philosophy of Money does not belong to any special 
branch of science, and therefore to all ; this the competent repre- 
sentatives of the sciences in question will never pardon him, and 
yet they all of them can learn a great deal from him, the lawyer 
as well as the economist, the aestheticist as well as the historian. 
The man who wrote this book had to be more than a small prince 
over a narrow province of science ; he had to be absolute master 
over the wide realm of human thought. And yet a tragic strain 
goes through the book. It means burdening every thought with the 
fate of the eternal Jew, if the author treats every last thought as 
if it was the one before the last. The eternal restlessness, the 
longing after ever deeper knowledge and insight, is a tragic fate 
for him who is seeking after truth. This trait which reveals 


itself also by the most individual language of the book, leaves a 
feeling of restlessness behind. Simmel's language is rich in 
analogies, and it cannot be denied that analogy is a justified, even 
an important, medium of science. But it seems to me that an 
intellect in which the tendency to analogies and similarities is so 
strong as in Simmel's is easily led to overrate their argumentative 
power. If Schmoller blames Simmel for not excluding credit 
from his treatment- of monetary phenomena, it seems to me that 
it is impossible to separate money from credit, yea that the true 
meaning of money only becomes evident by credit. Money has 
not yet reached the highest stage of development; Simmel 
wanted to show the tendency in which it is going to develop. 
But that regards only one part, and not even the most import- 
ant one, of his book. 

Whoever refuses to accept Simmel's rationalistic interpreta- 
tion of being must refuse to accept this book ; whoever does not 
will have hours of pure enjoyment and infinite instruction in 
reading it. It is not of importance whether this book has found 
a solution for all the problems it has touched, but the fact that 
it gives an infinitely deep psychological interpretation of life 
makes it valuable for all time. It might be said of it what 
Simmel himself wrote on a different occasion. Only the narrow 
pride of|a scientific bureaucracy can refuse to accept the instal- 
ment of knowledge which is presented here in the form of 
artistic intuition. " Simmel himself is distinguished by what he 
has praised in Nietzsche, by the subtlety of feeling, the depth of 
causal analytics, the exactness of expression, the boldness of 
his attempts*to express the undertones and intimacies of the soul, 
which no one before ever dared approach. The circle of those 
for whom he has written will unfortunately be small, and the 
Philosophy of Money ought to be introduced by the words with 
which Henry Beyle ends one of his works : " To the happy few." 

S. P. Altmann. 
Berlin, Germany.